LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- John Landgraf opened FX's executive session at the TCA Summer Press Tour with a pair of announcements: ordering a 13-episode second season for "Louie" and a comedy pilot from "Reno 911" co-creators Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant.
"U.S.S. Alabama," which Lennon and Garant will also co-star, is a partially scripted comedy that "takes place in space with a crew of spacefarers who might not be too much brighter than the cops in 'Reno 911,'" Landgraf said. Production on the pilot will begin next month.
Beyond said developments, Landgraf spent the bulk of the session celebrating the channel's successes - both past ("Without 'The Shield' we wouldn't have 'Sons of Anarchy' because [creator] Kurt Sutter... started as a junior writer [there].") and present (all four of its new series in the past 12 months - "Louie," "The League," "Archer" and "Justified" - received second season pickups).
As for the future, FX plans to kick off 2011 with season two of "Archer" and newcomer "Lights Out" in January followed by the return of "Justified" in February or March. And on the pilot front, drama "Outlaw Country" goes into production next month while comedy "Wilfred" just wrapped principal photography.
Other topics included the transition of "Damages" from FX to DirecTV where FX Productions will continue to produce the series, but the network itself will not air it. "DirecTV felt very strongly - they were willing to underwrite it to a very substantial amount financially, they enabled it to move forward, that was a deal that Sony worked on very aggressively - but they wanted it exclusively so this was really the best and only way for 'Damages' to move forward. So we stepped aside as a network entity and we're still involved as a production entity."
He also addressed the DVR issue, which seems to haunt FX series in particular. "I think anybody who sits in this chair as an executive who tells you they don't wish the DVR hadn't been invented is lying. I think it's a great device for consumers and I use it heavily as a consumer myself but we do pay a penalty. We're now losing upwards of 25% of the saleable audience from our shows - in other words if you take a show on FX we get paid from an advertiser standpoint typically now for about 75% of the people actually watching the show. The [other] 25% are in fact watching the show and measurably watching the show but not watching the commercials. And so, thankfully we have a dual revenue stream [with cable operator fees]."
Ultimately, Landgraf proved to be most proud of the general elevation of cable series from afterthoughts to sought after sources of entertainment as of late. "I think it's become almost a status symbol for an actor to have a cable show," he said. "I think many, many actors really want a show. I think part of that has to do with the creative boldness of 'The Shield' and 'The Wire' and 'Mad Men' [etc.] - I think what you see in the film business is that kind of [drama] or that adult film that is very ambitious creatively and from a tone standpoint has really nuanced, defined roles for characters and is made for an adult audience has really almost disappeared. And so a lot of being a movie star these days is standing in front of a green screen in a latex costume with guide wires on, learning how to do karate. And I think in that environment actors want to go where the best writers are [which is cable television]."